Frankfurt is to build £29.3M Jewish centre

Funding from federal government, state, city and Jewish community


Construction will begin next month in Frankfurt on what German communal leaders hope will become one of the main centres for Jewish learning in Europe.

The Jewish Academy (Jüdische Akademie), due to open in the city in 2024, is envisaged as an educational hub that will host seminars and conferences on topics of interest and concern to the German Jewish community and beyond.

Its output is expected to focus on Jewish history, culture, philosophy, ethics, and religious pluralism as well as Israel, the Holocaust, antisemitism, interreligious dialogue, and historical memory in Germany.

The Jewish Academy will be housed in a purpose-built structure with a rooftop terrace offering views of the Frankfurt skyline. Germany’s financial capital is home to a Jewish community of more than 6,000 members.

The project will break ground in September, with construction due to be completed by the end of 2023.

Since the first estimate was published in 2018, the cost of building the institute has rocketed from £13.2 million to £29.3 million.

That burden will be shared between the German federal government, the state of Hesse, the City of Frankfurt, and the Central Committee of Jews in Germany.

The Jewish Academy is in part modelled on a previous Frankfurt institute, the Freies Jüdisches Lehrhaus, founded in 1920 by the Jewish historian and philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929).

While Rosenzweig was an opponent of Zionism, he was an influential figure in both Jewish and Christian intellectual circles and had a lasting impact on existentialism.

He conceived of a place of Jewish learning for those who had drifted away from traditional institutions.

Martin Buber, S Y Agnon, and Gershom Scholem were among those who lectured at his institute, which was shut down by the Nazis in 1938.

Across the country in Görlitz — a town in the state of Saxony on the Polish border — a former synagogue has reopened as a cultural forum.

Founded in 1911 at a time when around 600 Jews lived in the city, the synagogue — replete with neoclassical columns, art nouveau flourishes and a tiered dome with a red-tiled roof — was the only one in Saxony to escape the destruction of Kristallnacht in November 1938.

Görlitz’s Jewish community was dissolved one year later; after the Holocaust, ownership of the synagogue passed into the hands of the GDR’s communist authorities.

Efforts to renovate the synagogue began in 1990, a project whose costs totalled £10.2 million.

The Görlitz synagogue formally reopened in July. On Thursday, the Jewish community in Lübeck in northern Germany celebrated the completed restoration of their town’s synagogue.

The unadorned, red brick Carlebach Synagogue — another survivor of Kristallnacht — had fallen into a state of disrepair prior to its £7.2 million renovation, which included repairs to the roof, heating, and plumbing as well as the full restoration of the sanctuary.

With room for 110 men and 90 women, the synagogue will serve the needs of Lübeck’s Jewish community which has around 600 members, 95 percent of whom hail from the former Soviet Union.


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